Prakrits (Prakrita = "natural," "artless"), collective name of all the Aryan languages of India intermediate between Sanskrit and the Neo-Sanskritic (Gaurian) tongues. The earliest specimens are the rock and pillar inscriptions of the Buddhist King Asoka, 3rd century B.C.; oldest grammar by Vararuchi 1st century B.C. Several known varieties: Shahbazgarhi and Girnar, the oldest and nearest to Sanskrit; Pali (q.v.); Jaina of the Bhagavati, sacred book of the Jains; Paisachi; Shauraseni, the chief vernacular used in the Hindu drama; Maharashtri, allied to, if not the source, of the western Gaurian tongues (Sindhi, Panjabi, Gujarati, Marathi); Magadhi (q.v.). The Prakrits, all of which are still highly inflectional, were current generally from about 600 B.C. to 600 or 700 A.D., merging gradually in the modern vernaculars.